Exxon charged with illegally dumping fracking waste in Pennsylvania

By Will Kennedy, September 11, 2013. Source: Bloomberg

Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), the world’s largest energy company, was charged with illegally dumping more than 50,000 gallons (189,000 liters) of wastewater at a shale-gas drilling site in Pennsylvania.

Exxon unit XTO Energy Inc. discharged the water from waste tanks at the Marquandt well site in Lycoming County in 2010, according to a statement on the website of Pennsylvania’s attorney general. The pollution was found during an unannounced visit by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

The inspectors discovered a plug removed from a tank, allowing the wastewater to run onto the ground, polluting a nearby stream. XTO was ordered to remove 3,000 tons of soil to clean up the area. Wastewater discharged from natural-gas wells can contain chlorides, barium, strontium and aluminum, the attorney general’s statement showed.

“Criminal charges are unwarranted and legally baseless,” the XTO unit said yesterday in astatement posted on its website. “There was no intentional, reckless or negligent misconduct by XTO.”

Pennsylvania has become one of the biggest gas-producing states in the past five years as explorers drill the Marcellus shale, a rock formation stretching across the northeast U.S. that holds 24 percent of the nation’s shale gas reserves, according to the Energy Information Administration. Exxon agreed to buy XTO in 2009 for $34.9 billion.

XTO was charged with five counts of unlawful conduct under the Clean Streams Law and three counts under the Solid Waste Management Act.

Legal Risks

“Charging XTO under these circumstances could discourage good environmental practices,” the company said in its statement. “This action tells oil and gas operators that setting up infrastructure to recycle produced water exposes them to the risk of significant legal and financial penalties should a small release occur.”

The company said it “acted quickly” to clean up the spill and there was “no lasting environmental impact,” according to the statement.

XTO said it agreed to pay “reasonable civil penalties” in a July 18, 2013 settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice. It also agreed to recycle at least half its drilling wastewater, according to the agreement.

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Filed under Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Hydrofracking, Pollution, Waste, Water

0 Responses to Exxon charged with illegally dumping fracking waste in Pennsylvania

  1. Tom

    No criminal charges because nont hing was done intentionally???? The story says a drain plug was removed from a tank. How does one unintentionally remove a plug ? And why does this story say that criminal charges would discourage good environmental practices! WHAT? So getting away with it won’t make them more likely to keep doing this? What happened to jou rnalists who saw through stupid stories and really kept pushing for good answers?

  2. Rollo McFloogle

    When things like this happen, people immediately jump to the conclusion that this was all part of some corporate plan to ruin life for the average, everyday person. Without investigating what actually happened too deeply, events like this are almost always the result of several bad decisions and/or assumptions that create a perfect storm for an accident to happen.

    Every accident is preventable, but people are human and people make mistakes. The mistake could have been from miscommunication, laziness, and ignorance of the situation (or any plethora of other causes). That said, companies have plenty of standards and procedures, both in house and industry, that corporate and plant manage expect to be followed. If they are followed correctly, you can really minimize the risk of something going wrong. However, maybe it’s the end of the shift and people want to get home, maybe someone’s having a bad day, or maybe a worker thinks he knows better than an engineer (or an engineer arrogantly ignores field experience), and that is what turns potential events into actual events.

    Don’t assume that the business is out to get you. Watch out for tactics designed to mislead and stir up hate.

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